Fat City Review - Screenshot 1 of 3

"Fat City" is the colloquial name for a well-to-do section of New Orleans, and became the primary inspiration for the idiom "being in fat city," a phrase that unsurprisingly means to be doing well. Fat City is now also the name of an action-puzzler on the Wii U eShop by Heavy Iron Studios (which has a record for work-for-hire Disney projects, for example), and it's a title that follows protagonist Chris Knox as he gets to that prosperous status by way of 60 big-time heists across the boroughs of New York.

Poor Chris is only doing it because a bunch of shady gangsters put him up to it; it turns out he used to be part of special operations forces and has valuable skills the thugs need. Of course, if he refuses, his sister may just have an unfortunate accident. You may have seen more than a few action movies with a similar plot, and Fat City is about as laughably cliche-ridden as it gets. It's unfortunate, too, that most of the tale is relegated to short text prompts before each heist; some hammy voiceovers or cutscenes might have helped the narrative meet its cheesy potential.

Fat City Review - Screenshot 2 of 3

The gameplay is definitely the focus here, though, and it fares much better than the story; Fat City's 60 heists are quick, clever little gauntlets of pathfinding strategy. At their most basic level they simply require you to draw a line across the map that hits all necessary spots while avoiding law enforcement and other obstacles. If you want to unlock additional regions of New York, however, you'll need to make collecting diamonds an additional priority on the way. There's an element of timing, as well; even the best-laid plan won't execute correctly if Chris launches it without thinking about the patrol pattern of his adversaries. The game's pacing is pitch-perfect, easing you in with smaller areas and simpler obstacles, gradually building to longer and more complex jobs.

There's a high degree of accessibility here, afforded by straightforwardness in just about every important area: the visuals emphasize clarity over style, the controls are intuitive, and the actual game mechanics are a cinch to grasp (but, appropriately, difficult to master). A particularly nice touch is the use of items and challenges: each level rewards you for completion in the shortest possible time, which can be accomplished with or without the use of optional items. All of this adds up to a bout of arcade-style fun that simultaneously ticks the boxes of puzzle-solving and quick-reflex action.

The visual presentation, as mentioned, is pretty stark - a choice that trades graphical flash for functionality and ease of use. The interface's clean look is helpful when planning routes, but it's certainly nothing pretty to look at; the main character is represented by a circular tile and locations have a transparent, wireframe apparance. The music is likewise pretty unremarkable electronic stuff, background noise that fits the game's action-movie aesthetic without really standing out.


Some players might be put off by the fairly steep launch price, but Fat City is a tightly designed, refreshingly simple little title that will appeal to fans of arcade games. There's a level of accessibility afforded by intuitive controls and easy-to-understand rules; casual players should have no problem learning the basics and getting assistance from optional items, while more skilled gamers will likely enjoy trying to get through each level using the fastest route. The visuals are a bit simple, and the story often feels rather tacked-on, but neither of those factors should do very much to deter anyone from enjoying what is otherwise a surprisingly fun time.